July 10, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation details hollowed-out US public health departments

While it is widely understood that U.S. public health departments have suffered budget cuts over the years, a collaborative AP/Kaiser Health News team used data and deep reporting to show exactly how expansive those cuts have been.

The investigation by AP’s Michelle Smith, Meghan Hoyer and Mike Householder, teamed with KHN’s Lauren Weber, Laura Ungar, Hannah Recht and Anna Maria Barry-Jester, drew on data from disparate sources and interviews with more than 150 people to reveal a system starved of money and staff for years, and facing more cuts amid the worst health crisis in a century. 

The team’s all-formats package drew kudos and high-profile reaction from health officials, to the halls of Congress, to editorial pages.

For an ambitious story that laid bare the state of America’s public health system, the joint AP/KHN team of Smith, Hoyer, Householder, Weber, Ungar, Recht and Barry-Jester shares this week’s Best of the States award.

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Dec. 24, 2020

Best of the States

Joint investigation reveals ‘leadership vacuum’ after backlash against public health officials

AP reporter Michelle Smith was working on another project in June when she came up with the names of a dozen or so public health officials who had quit, retired or been fired. Sensing a trend, Smith and reporters at Kaiser Health News continued to track those departures as the pandemic worsened and the backlash against public health restrictions became more strident.

The journalists contacted officials in all 50 states and interviewed dozens of people, finding a public health leadership vacuum developing at a critical time in the pandemic. They told the stories of public servants who toiled through the pandemic only to be reviled by their neighbors — including the wrenching story of an official whose husband would not even follow her recommendation to require masks in the family store. The timely all-formats story included a data distribution, interactive graphics and a sidebar with portraits and quotes of public health officials. 

For a deeply reported package that examines a vital component of the pandemic response, Smith, Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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June 26, 2020

Best of the States

Frontline health care workers face the emotional toll taken by the virus

As the coronavirus pandemic enters a new phase in a reopening nation, its psychological toll is sinking in for the frontline workers who have cared for the sickest patients. 

Writer Jennifer Peltz, video journalists Robert Bumsted and Ted Shaffrey, and photographer John Minchillo  went into New York City hospitals to see the impact in person, in real time and on the record. They interviewed health care workers and spent time with them on the job, seeing firsthand the lingering effects of months spent treating COVID-19 patients.

“In my wildest dreams, I never imagined how hard it would be,’’ one doctor said. 

For a fully rendered package that takes a close personal look at this important aspect of the pandemic, the team of Peltz, Bumsted, Shaffrey and Minchillo earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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March 09, 2017

Best of the States

Minnesota: Projecting the GOP health plan's statewide impact

It’s no secret that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare could have a significant impact both on those holding insurance and on the finances of states that have embraced the health care law. But over the last few months, few details had emerged on what that precise impact might be.

In an “Only on AP” story, St. Paul, Minnesota, statehouse reporter Kyle Potter revealed that Minnesota officials were bracing for additional costs that could reach $6 billion by 2029 to maintain a low-income health care program that covers more than 900,000 state residents. For providing one of the first concrete glimpses into the possible ramifications states envision, Potter wins this week's Best of States recognition.

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May 08, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Data: Most California health volunteers not eligible

obtained data revealing that more than 85% of the 93,000 people who signed up for the California Health Corps either didn't have the required medical license or failed to fill out an application. Gov. Gavin Newsom had described the program as an army of volunteers to accommodate the expected massive surge of COVID-19 cases. Thompson found only about 5% of the sign-up total had been cleared to participate, and that 233 were being paid to staff an emergency hospital established in a vacant arena with no patients.https://bit.ly/2WyP53Khttps://bit.ly/3fkJvKV

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July 05, 2019

Best of the States

AP: Smoke from US wildfires boosting health risk for millions

After last year's deadly wildfires in California brought weeks of sooty skies to cities along the West Coast, the AP decided to take a closer look into the broader impacts of the massive smoke plumes.

Billings, Montana, correspondent and environment team member Matthew Brown teamed with Denver video journalist P. Solomon Banda to produce an all-formats report on the growing public health threat from wildfire smoke. Their work grew from a body of research that points to where smoke impacts will be worst – a broad swath of the West that includes more than 300 counties with tens of millions of people.

For diligent reporting that provided a deeper look into how wildfires affect communities throughout the region, Brown and Banda earn this week’s Best of the States award.

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Jan. 15, 2021

Best of the States

AP reporting reveals some front-line health care workers balking at COVID vaccine

The AP team of Bernard Condon, Matt Sedensky and Carla K. Johnson assembled the most detailed national look yet at one of the most vexing snags in the coronavirus vaccine rollout: Surprising numbers of health care workers — who have seen firsthand the misery inflicted by COVID-19 — are refusing the shots.

The deep reporting, with contributions from colleagues across the country, found the paradox occurring in nursing homes and hospitals, with some individual facilities seeing a refusal rate as high as 80%. The story, one of AP’s most-read on an extremely busy news week, quoted both health workers expressing fears of vaccine side effects and frustrated facility administrators.

For bringing to light an important part of the stumbling early rollout of the much-anticipated vaccine, Condon, Sedensky and Johnson win this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 03, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Portraits of heroes: AP documents courageous health professionals in Italy

With a powerful and evocative photo gallery, AP journalists in Italy captured the heroism of 16 Italian medical personnel on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Photo editor Alberto Pellaschiar proposed the idea, and hospitals – reassured by AP’s reputation for professionalism – permitted photographers Antonio Calanni and Luca Bruno and chief photo editor Domenico Stinellis to make photos of the doctors and nurses during breaks or as they finished their shifts. 

The intimate portraits conveyed the fatigue and determination of the men and women working round-the-clock to save lives. Chief correspondent Nicole Winfield studied the portraits and interviewed some of the subjects to put their struggle into words.

The impact was tremendous – the stark, understated images and accompanying story riveted audiences around the globe. 

For conceiving and executing a brilliant series of images that captures in human terms the battle against the disease, Pellaschiar, Stinellis, Calanni, Bruno and Winfield win AP’s Best of the Week.

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Nov. 03, 2016

Best of the States

Lack of choice in health insurance markets a growing problem

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is one of the most divisive political issues in America. So when word began circulating last summer of potential double-digit premium hikes, Washington health care reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar knew he'd have a major story on his hands. With those price hikes would come renewed fears insurers would leave the program.

Looking ahead to the autumn release of the data, Alonso-Zaldivar and data journalism Meghan Hoyer starting laying the groundwork for AP to offer something distinctive, that no other news organization would have.

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May 13, 2022

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP: Acute shortage of public defenders in Oregon and beyond

picked up on a seemingly mundane local story: A state working group was looking into problems with Oregon’s public defense system. That seed led the Portland-based reporter to interview attorneys, private investigators and a suspect in an attempted murder, revealing that the combination of a post-pandemic glut of delayed cases and the state’s severe shortage of public defenders means hundreds of low-income defendants don’t have legal representation — sometimes in serious felony cases — and judges have dismissed several dozen cases.Flaccus found similar crises unfolding from Maine to New Mexico. And she showed the many painful repercussions of the problem, highlighting how young victims of sex abuse and trafficking are hesitant to come forward because of disillusionment with the system.Read more

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Sept. 22, 2017

Best of the States

Request denied? Sunshine Hub sheds light on state efforts to block public access

Beyond its dramatic effects, the audio from 911 calls can provide the kind of context that is essential to the public's understanding of what happened during a newsworthy crime or emergency. Those recordings are, with few exceptions, a matter of public record. That almost changed this year in Iowa, where the state House passed – unanimously – a bill that would end the public's ability to access many 911 calls. The bill eventually died after an outcry from the media, watchdog groups and civil rights organizations, but it was not unusual. A months-long project by AP reporters and data journalists found more than 150 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that were intended to eliminate or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings.

To help reporters find, track and provide input on those bills, Serdar Tumgoren and Seth Rasmussen of the data team created a unique online tool that provided full access to AP customers.

Called the Sunshine Hub, it helps users keep track of legislative activity related to government transparency, suggest new bills, search for and categorize bills for research purposes, and discuss legislation with others. The Sunshine Hub directly complemented stories by Ryan Foley in Iowa, Andrew DeMillo in Arkansas and Laurie Kellman in Washington.

For their groundbreaking reporting and software development, Tumgoren, Rasmussen, Foley, DeMillo and Kellman win this week's Best of the States award.

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